He collects pairs of cars—parts from one
to complete the other—that he doesn’t repair
as planned. Old, not yet antique Ramblers,
Cutlasses, bulgy-eyed Volvos. He collects hand tools,
discarded books, stray cats, milk bottles, spittoons,
rotary telephones, soprano saxophones.

He rents cheap shacks from oddball landlords
and fills them with plantation decor. A ceramic lamp
disturbed me: a dark-skinned woman kneeling
in a yellow sarong, one hand touching her turban,
the other cupping her naked breast. She reminded him
of Viet Nam: watching bombing from his ship, dropping acid
in Philippine bars. He only falls in love with other men’s wives:
smart women with biting humor.

But something more than un-winnable women
and un-winnable war wounded his large and lonely heart.
He told me once, in kindergarten, he covered the entire page
with black paint, leaving no room for his name.
He lives in slow motion, as if he had three hundred years
to fill that hole, spending hours staring into the swimming pool,
his mind spinning with ideas that never get traction,
holding his glass of wine as if an offering to someone unseen.

Click here to listen to Sara Backer reading "Unfinished"

Winner of the 2015 Turtle Island Poetry Award, Sara Backer's chapbook Bicycle Lotus is available from Left Fork. Recent poems appear in Rust + Moth, New Welsh Reader, So to Speak, Dreams & Nightmares, and Gargoyle. Follow her on Twitter @BackerSara or sarabacker.com.

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